Part 1—Your "journalists" aren't up to this task: Kathleen Parker is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post.
(We know, we know. They all are!)
On Sunday, Parker opined on the Supreme Court’s recent health care decision. She focused on the role played by Chief Justice Roberts.
Parker seems like a pleasant person. But we were perplexed from the start:
PARKER (7/1/12): The Supreme Court ruling on health-care reform was like Palm Sunday in reverse: First they crucified Chief Justice John Roberts, then, upon his ruling, they hauled out the palm fronds.Roberts did vote to uphold the legislation. (Actually, he voted to uphold the bulk of the legislation; the unforced errors come thick and fast in this column.) But we were puzzled:
“They” would be the various pundits, academics and others who let Roberts know in advance that if his court overturned “Obamacare,” he would be revealed and remembered as a partisan hack.
But then: Hosanna, Eureka and Praise Jesus, Allah and Abraham! Roberts, a conservative, devout Catholic who probably doesn’t personally like any part of this law, sided with the liberal wing of the court and upheld the legislation. Cue Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus.
Why would a devout Catholic personally dislike all parts of the law? One part of the law would be this: Before Roberts and six other justices struck down part of its Medicaid provision, it was projected that the law would provide or help provide insurance to thirty million uninsured people.
Why wouldn’t a devout Catholic “personally like” that part of this law? We have no earthly idea.
We thought Parker’s column was poorly reasoned and hard to follow throughout. Only after a bit of a struggle were we able to decipher paragraphs 5 and 6. (In paragraph 5, she is plainly criticizing liberals. But in paragraph 6, it’s Tea Party types against whom she snarks, we finally discerned.)
Meanwhile, did Justice Roberts really say that “Obamacare constitutes a tax?” (See Parker’s paragraph 8.) Surely, Parker meant to say that Roberts said that it includes a tax (the so-called “penalty”). And yes, that distinction makes a difference, as was clear all over the landscape on the Sunday shows.
Parker is a Pulitzer winner. But alas! Within our Potemkin upper-end “press corps,” such people just aren’t very good at making basic distinctions. Our major columnists reason quite poorly. Amazingly often, they’re given to outright misstatement of fact.
Amazingly often, our Pulitzer winners don’t seem to know what the Grant Hill they’re talking about. And that’s pretty much where matters stood as Parker offered this thunder in paragraphs 11 and 12:
PARKER: Here’s what else the court said. When a tax is a tax, you have to call it a tax. No more pretense or doublespeak to fool or mislead people. This is a victory for all Americans, no matter what one’s political leaning, because it is a victory for plain speaking. If we could summarily order all politicians to say exactly what they mean, we would all be better off.For now, put aside Parker’s claim about calling a tax a tax. We thought that passage was quite shaky too (more tomorrow).
We also probably wouldn’t have Obamacare. If Americans had heard from the beginning that health-care reform meant a new tax, the legislation probably wouldn’t have gone far. This is especially so, given that the tax primarily will be on the backs of middle-class Americans who can least afford it. Who else, after all, is going to be hardest-pressed to find extra funds to purchase insurance?
But the highlighted statement, taken on face, seems to be flat-out wrong.
Are you kidding? “If Americans had heard from the beginning that health-care reform meant a new tax, the legislation probably wouldn’t have gone far?” In fact, the health law includes quite a few new taxes, a fact which was widely discussed over the past several years. On Friday, PolitiFact listed seven of these new taxes, even as it refuted of one of the ridiculous claims which have emerged from last week’s ruling.
In typical fashion, Rush Limbaugh had claimed that the health care law is "the largest tax increase in the history of the world." PolitiFact murdered that evergreen bit of stupidity, though many voters will hear that claim in future weeks as the “press corps” sits and self-diddles.
But even as it shot Rush down with a pants-on-fire ruling, PolitiFact listed seven new taxes which are part of the law. If we take her column on face, Parker didn’t seem to know that there are any such taxes in the law. She didn’t seem to know that many voters have heard complaints about them.
Did Parker really mean what she said? By simply construction, her column implies that no one heard there were any new taxes in the law until Roberts delivered his ruling.
It’s possible to rethink what she wrote, insisting that what she wrote can’t possibly be what she meant. It’s possible to imagine that an editor came along and fudged up her copy.
Maybe Parker didn’t mean it. But by simple construction, that is what her column said—and our Pulitzer winners routinely misstate basic facts about high-profile topics. (Click here for Gene Robinson, just last week, in the same famous newspaper.) In truth, these people don't work very hard—and/or they aren't very honest.
Truly, we live in fictitious times—fictitious times which are driven along by a fictitious “press corps.”
For better or worse, there are lots of new taxes in the health law. Our analysts simply shook their heads at Parker’s apparent cluelessness. But even as they shook their heads, they understood a much larger point—a press corps which can’t even state basic facts will be massively over its head in the semantic disputes which will follow last Thursday’s ruling.
Does Obamacare “constitute” a tax? What did Robert actually say about this matter? Already, this has become a fascinating discussion—and within this sprawling “semantic” discussion, much propaganda will flow.
Important facts will be misstated or miscast. The public in going hear all sorts of bogus assertions. And as this important discussion unfolds, you can be thoroughly sure of one fact:
The high-ranking actors who pose as our “journalists” will be massively over their heads in this sprawling discussion. They won’t know how to discuss these claims.
Nor will they actually care.
Tomorrow: What Roberts said